Kimberley lures big city cast

BEEF prices might be up but almost no-one is speculating that moves by Warren Anderson’s Tipperary Developments on two Kimberley pastoral stations have anything to do with cattle.

The whole region is seething with talk of private ecology projects, secret Aboriginal art galleries and El Questro-style developments, with the mystery surrounding negotiations over Theda and Doongan stations prompting the most speculation of all.

Former political candidate, ex-Kununurra shire president and associate of the Kerry Packer pastoral empire, Susan Bradley, is said to be closely connected to the Tipperary bid for the stations, both of which have addresses on a Gibb River Road subsidiary.

Even golfer Greg Norman’s name has been linked to the stations, which sit near a suitable operational area for his $60 million expedition yacht on order from Perth shipbuilder Austal.

Estimated to be worth at least $3 million between them, the two stations cover an impressive 612,288 hectares and have been put on the market by interests associated with Russell Timms.

Bounded to the west by the King Edward River, to the east by the largely untapped wilderness of Drysdale River National Park and littered with priceless Aboriginal art, (particularly the distinct style known as Bradshaws) Theda and Doongan are viewed as having huge tourism potential.

Certainly the art is considered better than that found on Mornington Station, which Michael Kerr sold to Perth conservationist Martin Copley’s Australian Wildlife Conservancy group for $1.6 million last month.

That station, which includes the famous Dimond Gorge on the headwaters of the Fitzroy River, already has a six-year history of tourism but the new owners plan to shift the emphasis to educational tourism centred on a 82,000ha sanctuary within the 400,000ha property.

As cattle stations, any change of lessee, let alone usage, requires permission of the Pastoral Lands Board.

Just how commercial the two stations are is unknown. Gude Pty Ltd, the company behind Theda, was under administration for most of the 1990s, though it is not known if that related to the station’s operations.

What is known is that beef prices have rocketed, helping underpin those relying on the Kimberley’s more traditional industry of grazing.

Agriculture WA reports that Midland Saleyard prices for heavyweight pastoral steers has increased 16 per cent since December, or $100, to about $600 per head.

But cattle prices are far from the minds of people talking about these properties.

One source said Theda had a particularly good range of Aboriginal rock art.

“I would say that is their prime reason for buying them,” the Broome-based source said.

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